A retired FBI agent who helped arrest a reputed Ku Klux Klansman on a state murder charge in the 1964 deaths of two black Mississippi teenagers said Tuesday that James Ford Seale told him he was "not going to admit" to the crime.
Ed Putz testified during Seale's trial on federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges that he and another FBI agent assisted two state Highway Patrol officers in arresting Seale at his home on Nov. 6, 1964 for the drowning deaths of the teenagers in a Mississippi River backwater.
Putz said while the group traveled to Jackson together he took the opportunity to talk to Seale, telling him, "You didn't even give them a decent burial. We know you did it. You know you did it. God knows you did it."
Federal prosecutor Eric Gibson asked Putz how Seale responded. Seale said: "Yes. I'm not going to admit to it. You're going to have to prove it," the former FBI agent testified.
Seale was arrested in January on federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges for the abduction of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. He has since pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The state murder charge was dropped.
The trial addresses the latest of more than a dozen cases from the civil rights era that prosecutors across the U.S. South have revived since the early 1990s.
Recalling the arrest
Current FBI agent Mark Stucky, who helped arrest Seale on Jan. 24, testified that he and other agents went to Seale's home in the tiny town of Roxie. Stucky said Seale answered the door, and the agents introduced themselves and told him they wanted to talk to him about what happened in 1964.
"He tried to close the door and said, 'I don't want to talk to you,'" Stucky said.
Seale asked if he was under arrest, Stucky said. The agents said yes and read him his rights. "He kept saying, 'I don't know what you're talking about,'" Stucky said.
Stucky said at one point he told Seale they were not there to debate him.
"He said, 'Well, there's no point. You know everything anyway,'" Stucky said.
Defense attorney Kathy Nester asked Stucky whether Seale was being sarcastic, and Stucky said he did not know.
Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman who last year was granted immunity from prosecution, has testified that he and Seale, a longtime friend, belonged to a Klan chapter, or "klavern," headed by Seale's late father. Seale has denied every belonging to the KKK.
Edwards told the jury that he saw Seale hold a sawed-off shotgun on the 19-year-olds while they were beaten. He said Seale later told him about how Dee and Moore were dumped into a remote backwater of the Mississippi River to drown.
Jurors could get the case later this week. The prosecution rested its case Tuesday. Seale faces up to life in prison if convicted.